Sports Gambling-States

FILE - In this Jan. 14, 2015, file photo, odds are displayed on a screen at a sports book owned and operated by CG Technology in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File) 

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is set to speak at a gaming industry-sponsored event in New Orleans next month that is expected to draw state lawmakers from around the country.

The National Council of Legislators from Gaming States annual meeting is set to focus heavily on sports betting — an issue that is likely to become a hot topic in the Louisiana Capitol when the State Legislature meets again next year.

Christie, as governor, led a seven-year effort to legalize sports wagering in New Jersey that ended earlier this year with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upended the federal prohibition.

Since then, states have been scrambling to allow casinos to add sports betting to their gaming offerings.

"The Supreme Court ruling is bringing sports betting out of the shadows and allowing each state to decide for itself whether to include this form of gambling in its overall gaming framework," Christie said in a news release from the hosting organization. "I look forward sharing my insights – including those gained from our disagreements with the major sports leagues – with gaming legislators from across the country in New Orleans."

Louisiana lawmakers unsuccessfully attempted earlier this year to pass a law that would have allowed sports betting if the New Jersey case was successful.

Legislators in support of the proposal have since vowed that they will try again during the legislative session that begins April 8.

According to an agenda for the Jan. 4-6 NCLGS meeting in New Orleans, State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, and Louisiana Gaming Control Board chair Ronnie Jones are slated to give a joint opening address, and Louisiana Office of Charitable Gaming director Michael E. Legendre and Louisiana Lottery Corporation President and CEO Rose Hudson will be on panel discussions.

Legislators who attend will shell out $300 for registration, plus hotel and travel costs. But a NCLGS representative pointed out during a discussion on Kansas's proposal that the group also offers scholarships to pay for lawmakers to attend its meetings.

The nation's top casino operators and others connected to the industry are the underwriters for the event.

The event, which will take place at Harrah's New Orleans, has come under recent scrutiny, as officials in Kansas opted to delay action on sports betting until after the industry-sponsored junket. The state still needs to fine-tune its regulations.

The Wichita Eagle reported this week that at least one Kansas lawmaker objected to the situation.

According to The Eagle, Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat, said the situation approaches a quid pro quo.

“Let’s all go down to New Orleans on these folks’ tab, and then after we’ve enjoyed their hospitality, we will write the legislation. That is far beyond the bounds of propriety,” Carmichael said, according to the paper's report.

It's unclear how many Louisiana legislators are planning to attend, though ethics records show several have reported going to NCLGS events in the past, and sports betting is already a priority issue for the coming session.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.